Five ethnic Ta’ang Buddhist monks have been detained by members of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) in Shan State’s Mong Kung Township, according to local sources.
The monks were in Mong Kung to provide educational services to the local Ta’ang community, but were reportedly arrested in a village on Feb. 21.
Pyinnya Thiri, a senior Ta’ang monk, told The Irrawaddy that, “Five of them were arrested and three of their motorbikes were taken as well.”
There are around 27 Ta’ang villages in southern Shan State, and they struggle with little access to public education; community-based organizations including the Ta’ang Monks Association, the Ta’ang Student and Youth Union and the Ta’ang Women’s Organization have tried to fill these gaps.
The groups got permission from the government to carry out educational initiatives in these villages in 2016 and 2017.
The monks were reportedly detained in areas under RCSS control, according to locals, who said that the RCSS questioned the monks’ work.
“Education has no borders. We can go and give education where our ethnic people are,” said senior monk Pyinnya Thiri.
In July and August of 2016, eight monks were also detained by the RCSS in Mong Kung before being released.
Meanwhile, the Ta’ang Monks Association sent letters regarding the detention to the Central Command and the Eastern Regional Command of the Burma Army in Shan State.
The Irrawaddy spoke to RCSS spokesperson Col Sai Hla, who said, “For us, first we want to get evidence of this. It would be good if they could send it to us.”
“If we get evidence, we could investigate our ground forces about who did it,” he said, adding that the accusation by the Ta’ang Monks Association was currently one-sided.